In the MX1 class, Suzuki’s World Motocross effort in the MX Grand Prix series is headed by former racer Sylvain Geboers. In the MX2 class, Suzuki’s World Motocross effort is run by Thomas Ramsbacher.
Here is what each had to say on various topics regarding the World Motocross and Supercross scene, before the GP of Brazil, which is this coming weekend.
How do you feel about the season so far?
So far we have reached a target. Both riders are in the top five of the standings and Clement Desalle is second, where I believe he can finish the season. That is what we could have expected of him in his first year with us and that was also the plan – it would have been difficult to be Champion right from the start. Steve recovered from his injury from last year and has ridden well but lost control a few times and through the crashes he has picked up some injuries and has had to race through them.
Regarding the motorcycles, the riders are happy with the bike and so are we. We have not found any weaknesses and any improvement we have managed between the wintertime and now have been accepted by both riders. We now face Brazil and the final races but for me so-far-so-good. I really feel that Clement has everything to become a World Champion. He makes a schedule for himself and does not want to burn himself out. He is focused on 2011 already and will start working this year to go for the title in 2011.
And what about development on the 2010 RM-Z450WS?
We were pleased with the changes and they were not big steps. Don’t forget we needed to work with the two meter max sound test and that required effort to get the bike to fit the new regulation. We have worked a lot to be safe but unfortunately the whole paddock is not following the rules and the FIM is not controlling it precisely, but will be doing so in the future. The performance of the bike is still very good and that’s why the reaction of the riders has always been positive. I cannot think of anything I would improve right now, except perhaps to give the riders yet more confidence in the motorcycle and we are heading in that direction with our development.
How do you feel about the direction of the FIM World MX Championship?
We are happy with the proposal and outline for the future that have been set out, such as having the first and final race in Europe, 15 races and two overseas for 2011. It is important that we can have a program to work towards, so we know the intention will be three overseas in 2012 and four the following year. We know in advance and we can work towards that.
Will there be any changes to the team for 2011?
We have been able to balance our needs with some excellent support from Teka Group and Rockstar Energy but that does not mean we suddenly have much more budget to run a third rider for example. For 2011 we have the contract for Desalle and for the second rider we have to wait until the end of August to get the confirmation of support from Suzuki which is virtually the most important piece. I think everything will be OK. We will be happy to continue with two riders for 2011 and also focus on the two riders in MX2. The main difference for us regarding 2011 is that we have a rider (Clement Desalle) who is interested in the USA and wants to find out how he can perform there. It could be that at the beginning of the winter we have to go overseas to practice some Supercross and see how Clement can handle it.
Will it be difficult to divide responsibilities between AMA Supercross and World MX Championship?
We are only talking about a few Supercross races. Clement doesn’t want to do the full series yet. I believe Desalle just wants to see how he can get on against the Americans. As for Ken Roczen, he is in a similar situation, pending any change in the AMA age rule, and there might be more flexibility for him to contest more races of the AMA West Coast Lites.
The team is now a major operation with a lot of staff, increased technical expertise and areas such as hospitality and marketing taken care of. How do you feel about that?
It is not easy but we have extra people now as part of the set-up and concentrating on specific areas. We have it under control and I’m convinced this is the way to go if we want to stay in this field and remain as a leading team with riders going for the World Championship.
If we want top partners then we need to give them publicity and a degree of comfort at the race. Even if the hospitality, marketing and other responsibilities mean a load on the shoulders of many, I am happy we are heading in this direction and we have it covered. We are not here to get rich. We are here for the sport and to do the best we can for our partners. My target has been to always get people working/racing in the best possible way, to have the best tools to do the job and get the results. Unfortunately by the actual world economical recession we can’t look too far ahead – we all need to plan carefully year by year.
How do you feel about 2010 so far?
We have had unbelievable moments and then other days where we have seen tears in the eyes of the rider. If we look back to Spain and Portugal they were emotional moments where we lost something but we grew in character, and I mean everyone on the team. It has been a good season for us so far where we have seen our riders develop, and our work together continues to evolve.
What about the RM-Z250s in 2011?
It was awesome what Suzuki of Japan, together with our technical group, around Jens Johansson, was able to do this year. We were one of the first top MX2 teams to start the season with fuel injection and it was a big learning experience at the beginning, but now in the middle of the year I think we can say we are 100% competitive and we have the top bikes in the category. The RM-Z250 has progressed a lot from our work in the winter.
What do you think about the FIM World MX Championship?
I think a clear direction and decision was reached with Youthstream about the overseas GPs which were always the biggest hits to the budget. To have a plan for the next three years is useful and we look forward to it.
Has Ken Roczen done what you expected him to do this year?
Ken Roczen has 100% fulfilled the goals we expected of him. He raced last year on enthusiasm and every result was great, even something in the top 10 made us happy but he made steps, such as the first moto win and first GP win. Through the winter we sat down, talked and we knew he would face a lot more pressure as one of the main guys. From that moment he put pressure on himself to be World Champion but for us if he could make the top three then that will already achieve a big target for us. So we are totally on track at the moment. With the new bike and the ups-and-downs we have had this year, to still be on course for what we want is ideal.
Ken has developed physically, mentally and also on the track …
That’s right. Ken started to work on his physical preparation one year ago and the result was evident from the winter. He became bigger, more muscular and I believe it is not as easy for him to play with the bike as one year ago as he did as a ‘kid’. He is more of a racer now.
He has changed from being a boy into a young man but do you think he copes well with all the extra attention?
He is very professional but of course he is 16 years old and the girls come around at most GPs wanting some attention! The fans are not the only ones, the journalists want quotes and reactions and are now looking for any faults or mistakes from a person who before was a cute kid that could do no wrong. Luckily he makes his own life as stress free as he wants and he lives normally as a teenager away from a motocross circuit.
Arnaud has many good attributes; the ability, personality, support of the family and very stylish on the bike …
We were talking about him just the other week and we said that not for one minute since we signed the contract with Arnaud did we regret bringing him on-board. He is somebody who loves to do his job and he is a pleasure to work with, and see the care, attention and passion he brings to all aspects.
Are you happy with team’s growth, profile and the closer link with Japan through GRP?
Yes I think it was a logical development. When we started in 2008 we needed to grow and since that first season we have fulfilled our targets together with our backers. We needed to make steps each year and that has been done and the connection with Japan was an important one that has come along. For 2011 our goal as a team will be to use our experience from this year with the bikes, be prepared earlier, continue working with our riders and be competitive right from the start. The attention on Ken this year has been another learning phase for us because nobody has cared about our riders before! We could work in a quiet corner. There has been a lot of hype around Ken but also Arnaud because he has established himself as one of the top guys in MX2.